Doctoral Teaching/TA-ing Requirement


Every PhD and on-campus DES student must complete two (2) teaching units.  (The teaching requirement does not apply to CVN DES students.) There are several options for accumulating teaching units:

1. Serving as a teaching assistant (TA), where teaching units are assigned by the Instruction Assistants Chair. Further information is available on the IA Chair website.
2. Serving as the instructor for a 1-point or 1.5-point course, which counts as one (1) teaching unit.
3. Serving as the instructor for a 3-point or 4-point course, which counts as two (2) teaching units.

Serving as a TA is the default.  All instructor (as opposed to TA) assignments must be approved by the Academic Committee Chair. Both TA and instructor assignments must also be approved by the student’s advisor.

The teaching units must be accumulated while teaching or TAing regular academic-year lecture courses offered by the Columbia University Department of Computer Science. Teaching or TAing during summer session or for another Columbia department, for CVN, for the School of Professional Studies, for another institution, or for any other organization or office, does not qualify towards satisfying the teaching requirement.

Teaching units must be acquired while formally enrolled in the doctoral program (MS/PhD, PhD or DES).

 [Note: A small number of students may have completed teaching units in the past while enrolled for the MS or CSE. As of Fall 2011 this is no longer possible, but previously acquired units will be honored on request of the student’s advisor.]


PhD students may be funded by the department as teaching fellows during the last semester in which they complete the final component of the teaching requirement. It is not possible to be appointed as both a teaching fellow and as a GRA (Graduate Research Assistant) during the same semester; a student normally funded as a GRA is instead funded as a teaching fellow for one semester. The stipend, tuition and fees support for doctoral teaching fellows is identical to doctoral GRAs.

Special arrangements are made for students funded through internal and external fellowships to fulfill the constraints of their program. Some of these funding sources may require additional teaching or TAing beyond the departmental requirement.  However, the doctoral teaching requirement is indeed a requirement, never waived, regardless of funding source (including self-supported or employer-supported students): all doctoral students (other than CVN-DES) must complete at least two teaching units.


After completing the teaching requirement, a qualified student may apply for a preceptor position, which pays somewhat more than a teaching fellow or GRA position.  Information about qualifications and application procedures are here.


After completing the mandatory teaching requirement, students making satisfactory progress, and with advisor approval, may apply for voluntary instructor or TA positions when available.  All instructor assignments must be approved by the Academic Committee Chair. TA assignments are made by the IA Chair. These students are typically paid relatively small amounts on the “casual” payroll in addition to their GRA or other funding source.


Independent of the doctoral teaching requirement, on-campus graduate students (including terminal MS) may voluntarily elect to serve in some teaching capacity for summer courses. The courses offered and payscale vary from year to year. Note that such summer teaching or TAing does not count towards satisfying the doctoral teaching requirement, but it is not necessary to complete the doctoral teaching requirement prior to summer teaching.


Last updated on May 3, 2021.